PhD candidate 'Root branching in Salt'

Published on
April 26, 2021
Location Wageningen
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We are looking for

Are you interested in exploring how plants interact with their environment? Are you fascinated by how roots -the hidden half of plants- can withstand dry and saline soils? Do you want to find out how root developmental adaptations to harsh environments work at the molecular and cellular level? And do you wish to do research and contribute to teaching in a multicultural and multidisciplinary scientific environment?

We are looking for a motivated and enthusiastic PhD student to investigate how plant root branching is affected by salt stress. You will combine experimental and bioinformatics approaches to investigate the mechanisms underlying the physiological and developmental responses of plant lateral root formation and outgrowth under salt stress.

Project discription
Salinity is highly detrimental to plant growth and survival. However, when growing in saline soils, plants are able to reprogram their root growth to help them survive. Plant lateral roots are key components of the whole plant root system, anchoring the plants and enabling them to take up water and nutrients. Yet the molecular mechanisms describing lateral root development in response to salt stress are largely unknown. In our NWO-ENW/KLEIN project “Rooting in Salt: Gene Regulatory Networks that Guide Root Developmental Plasticity”, we take an interdisciplinary approach to identify key pathways and genes that mediate lateral root development and help plants cope with salt stress.
Our core team will consist of 1 PhD co-supervisor, a PhD student and a bioinformatician within the larger abiotic stress team at the laboratory of plant Physiology and in collaboration with the WUR Bioinformatics group. We are looking for a PhD student who would like to do collaborative and creative research in an interdisciplinary team. Within the project you will be responsible for identification and characterization of stress-induced gene regulatory networks that affect plant lateral root phenotypes. You will investigate how the identified genes/pathways/networks contribute to root developmental plasticity and how they contribute to stress resilience. As part of the PhD training, you will be also involved in supervising MSc and BSc students as well as teaching in relevant courses.

The research is embedded within the Laboratory of Plant Physiology. You will become a member of the ‘Abiotic Stress” team, which is led by Prof. Christa Testerink ( or You will be co-supervised by Prof. Testerink and Dr. Yanxia Zhang.

We ask

  • You have an MSc degree in Plant Sciences, Molecular biology, (Plant) Biotechnology, or equivalent study.
  • You have hands-on experience in plant physiology and molecular biology research.
  • You have practical experience in or are willing to learn microscopy and bioinformatics analysis.
  • You work in an accurate and efficient way, and you are highly motivated to do science.
  • You are a team player with the wish to contribute to the group overall aim.
  • You are willing to contribute to mentoring and teaching MSc and BSc students that work with you on the project.
  • You have excellent communication skills, both oral and written.
  • You have a very good level of oral and written English. You are required to show us a certification of English skills. For more information about the required level please take a look at:
  • You meet all the entry requirements of the WUR PhD programme.

We offer

We offer you a PhD position at the Laboratory of Plant Physiology with a gross salary per month of € 2.395,= in the first year, building op to € 3.061,= in the 4th year for a full working week of 38 hours in accordance with the Collective Labor Agreement Dutch Universities. At first you will receive a contract of 1 year with an extension of 3 years after successful evaluation.

In addition, we offer:

  • 8% holiday allowance;
  • a structural year-end bonus of 8.3%;
  • excellent training opportunities and secondary employment conditions;
  • flexible working hours and holidays can possibly be determined in consultation so that an optimal balance between work and private life is possible;
  • excellent pension plan through ABP;
  • 232 vacation hours, the option to purchase extra and good supplementary leave schemes;
  • a flexible working time;
  • a choice model to put together part of your employment conditions yourself, such as a bicycle plan;
  • a lively workplace where you can easily make contacts and where many activities take place on the Wageningen Campus. A place where education, research and business are represented;
  • use the sports facilities on campus.
Wageningen University & Research stimulates internal career opportunities and mobility with an internal recruitment policy. There are ample opportunities for own initiative in a learning environment.
We offer a versatile job in an international environment with varied activities in a pleasant and open working atmosphere.

Coming from abroad
Wageningen University & Research is the university and research centre for life sciences. The themes we deal with are relevant to everyone around the world and Wageningen, therefore, has a large international community and a lot to offer to international employees. Applicants from abroad moving to the Netherlands may qualify for a special tax relief, known as the 30% ruling. Our team of advisors on Dutch immigration procedures will help you with the visa application procedures for yourself and, if applicable, for your family.
Feeling welcome also has everything to do with being well informed. Wageningen University & Research's International Community page contains practical information about what we can do to support international employees and students coming to Wageningen. Furthermore, we can assist you with any additional advice and information about helping your partner to find a job, housing, schooling, and other issues.

More information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Yanxia Zhang ( or Prof. dr. Christa Testerink (
For more information about the procedure, please contact
General information about the Laboratory of Plant Physiology can be found at

You can apply through the application button and this vacancy is open up to and including May 27, 2021.
The first online job interviews will take place in the week of June 7. Anticipated start date is between Aug 1- Oct 1, 2021.

Please submit a cv and cover letter including names of two references.
We will only consider applications that are submitted via the WUR website

Equal opportunities
WUR is an equal opportunity employer. We are keen to receive applications from all sufficiently qualified people, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, functional impairment, religion/life philosophy, sexual orientation, or age. 

We are

Wageningen University & Research The mission of Wageningen University and Research is “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. Under the banner Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen University and the specialised research institutes of the Wageningen Research Foundation have joined forces in contributing to finding solutions to important questions in the domain of healthy food and living environment.

With its roughly 30 branches, 6.500 employees and 12.500 students, Wageningen University & Research is one of the leading organisations in its domain. An integrated approach to problems and the cooperation between various disciplines are at the heart of Wageningen’s unique approach. WUR has been named Best Employer in the Education category for 2019-2020.

These are the points our employees list as good reasons to come work at WUR: read the 5 reasons to come work at WUR.

We will recruit for the vacancy ourselves, so no employment agencies please. However, sharing in your network is appreciated.

Apply now